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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 20, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 03
How many LGBT Americans are there? 10 million, Gallup poll says
Section One
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How many LGBT Americans are there? 10 million, Gallup poll says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Ten million American adults now self-identify as LGBT, according to the latest survey by Gallup Daily Tracking.

That number is 1.75 million larger than a similar survey done in 2012, largely due to the number of millennials - people born between 1980 and 1998 - who are out.

The portion of millennials identifying as LGBT increased from 5.8% in 2012 to 7.3% in 2016. For the same period, LGBT identification remained stable for 'Gen Xers' - the next oldest generation - at 3.2%, and declined from 2.7% to 2.4% among baby boomers and from 1.8% to 1.4% among so-called 'traditionalists,' the oldest respondents.

Gallup based their survey on interviews with a random sample of more than 1.6 million American adults. Across the five years of data collection, more than 49,000 respondents said 'yes' when asked, 'Do you, personally, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender?'

The Gallup organization cautioned against taking its tracking survey as the final say on how many LGBT people there are in the United States.

'Self-identification as LGBT represents only one aspect of measuring sexual orientation and gender identity,' Gallup said.

'For example, research shows that direct assessments of same-sex sexual behavior or attraction yield very different (and often larger) population estimates when compared with estimates of LGBT self-identification. A variety of factors can affect the willingness of adults to identify as LGBT. These can include how comfortable and confident survey respondents feel about the confidentiality and privacy of data collected.'

According to Gallup, confidentiality issues are not a big concern for millennials, as they might be for older respondents. That could be one factor that explains why people of that generation are so much more likely to identify as LGBT when compared with older respondents.

'[Millennials] are more comfortable than their older counterparts with the idea of sharing what some might consider private information on surveys,' Gallup notes.

Millennials also grew up with an LGBT-friendly social climate, pollsters added.

Gallup began polling on LGBT issues in 1977. In 1986, just 32% supported legalization of same-sex relationships, marking a low point in Gallup polling. By 1999, when the first millennials were becoming adults, half of Americans supported legalization, and, as of May 2016, the figure had risen to 68%. 'It's likely that millennials are the first generation in the US to grow up in an environment where social acceptance of the LGBT community markedly increased,' Gallup said.

'This may be an important factor in explaining their greater willingness to identify as LGBT. They may not have experienced the levels of discrimination and stigma experienced by their older counterparts. The perceived risks associated with publicly identifying as LGBT might also be lower in millennials than among other generations.'

Gallup also found that the demographic composition of Americans who identify as LGBT has markedly changed. 'It has become larger, younger, more female, and less religious,' pollsters said.

Strikingly, people of color are more likely to identify as LGBT than white people. In the 2016 survey, 5.4% of Hispanics, 4.9% of Asians, and 4.6% of African Americans self-identified as LGBT, compared to 3.6% of whites.

Compared with past Gallup surveys, the largest increases in LGBT self-identification occurred among Asians (from 3.5% to 4.9%) and Hispanics (from 4.3% to 5.4%). Among whites, the comparable figures are from 3.2% to 3.6%. Black Americans showed only a slight increase, from 4.4% to 4.6%.

Pollsters said the differences among racial groups 'are likely affected by differences in the age composition of the groups.' According to Gallup, the average age of Asian adults in the US is 35, the youngest among the race/ethnicity groupings. The average age among Hispanics is 39, 44 among blacks, 51 among whites, and 44 among 'other' racial and ethnic groups.

'Given the big changes in LGBT identification among millennials, the youngest generation, it's not surprising that younger racial and ethnic groups report larger LGBT identification increases,' Gallup concluded.

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